October 11, 2016 Opeth Make History At Radio City Music Hall NYC 10-1-16
Time is an indefinite cycle, and through this endless stream, people evolve while learning to embrace change. With that said, not everything is meant to remain the same, nor sound the same Hailing from Sweden, is one of the most influential, ever-changing Metal bands of the past twenty years, Opeth. Initially begun as a Melodic Death Metal act, Opeth has seen several shifts in style throughout the years. To many, the boldest turning points began to occur following the release of 2001’s Blackwater Park, leading into 2002’s Deliverance and 2003’s Damnation. A time where Opeth began to break through in a big way into the North American market, it has been an upward trend of success of the band since.
Impossible to pinpoint what they will do next, Lead Singer/Guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt has kept listeners guessing for over two decades now on what direction Opeth would go. Who knows, in the past, Åkerfeldt even has thrown out the idea of putting out a Black Metal album at some point. Opeth’s directional shift does not matter, because one thing remains consistent, their level of quality and musical execution. Released on September 30, 2016, their twelfth studio album, Sorceress, is no different. One of the most anticipated albums of the year, Opeth returns to North America in the fall of 2016 on the Sorceress World Tour. A month long trek teaming up with The Sword, the tour kicked off on September 24th in San Bernardino, California at the first Ozzfest Meets Knotfest two-day festival and is set to concluded on October 26th.
Nearing one week into the journey, on Saturday, October 1st, Opeth arrived at the heart of New York City to perform at the iconic Radio City Music Hall. Nearly a year following Opeth’s headlining of The Beacon Theatre, during this visit they decided to give New Yorkers an extra special treat, dubbing it An Evening Of Sorcery, Damnation & Deliverance. Only one of two dates on the tour in this format, the second being October 20th’s Los Angeles date, excitement was high for long-time followers.
No stranger to New York City, up first was Texas based band The Sword. Recently headlining at Brooklyn Bowl last May, The Sword brought with them a strong fanbase to Radio City Music Hall. A base that has grown since formation in 2003, many became hooked to the band’s brand of Rock following 2010’s Warp Riders and 2012’s Apocryphon. Sometimes referred to as “Warlock Rock,” The Sword’s sound is quite dynamic, blending Classic Rock, Stoner Rock, and Doom Metal. On the heels of their sixth album, Low Country; which is an acoustic compilation of songs from 2015’s High Country, this evening they were ready to show the audience a completely different side of their styling.
Ready to get the music started, as the lights dimmed to a darkened blue tint, John D. Cronise (vocals), Kyle Shutt (guitar), Bryan Richie (bass), and Santiago Vela III (drums) walked onto the massive stage. With no interaction, they moved right into “Tres Brujas,” followed by newer tunes “Buzzards,” and “The Dreamthieves.” Complemented by lighting that continued to delicately illuminate, the relaxing vibe persisted as “Cloak of Feathers” flowed into “Mist & Shadow.” With the crowd fully embracing their riffing excellence, The Sword threw out a surprise with 2008’s “Maiden, Mother & Crone.” From there, the momentum picked up with “Seriously Mysterious” before concluding the set with “Empty Temples.” The Sword made the most of their abbreviated set and pleased their followers as many stood up and screamed throughout the performance.
Now faced with an intermission, spectators had a little bit of time to check out the merchandise or grab another round of drinks before Opeth took the stage. Practically packed with eager and excited fans, while Opeth has played nearly every major venue in the city of New York through the years, most of the time people have become accustomed to rushing to the front of standing room only pit. Although, there have been rare occasions where the setting was much different, such as February 23, 2006’s Town Hall show or the aforementioned Beacon Theatre visit on October 22, 2015. That in mind, there is no doubt for Opeth and their fans this show at Radio City Music Hall would be one of the most surreal settings of their career.
Without further ado, as the lights dimmed, everyone patiently waited as Mikael Åkerfeldt (vocals/guitar), Martín Méndez (bass), Martin Axenrot (drums), Fredrik Åkesson (guitar), and Joakim Svalberg (keyboard) walked onto the platform. Frozen in silence, everyone curiously pondered what song would begin the set. Then Åkerfeldt gazed into the massive crowd and “Sorceress” kicked into motion. A fitting start, everyone cheered as “Ghost of Perdition” soon followed. Two rather lengthy songs, Åkerfeldt and company took a brief break to converse with the room, admitting he was surprised that everyone was there instead of seeing Twisted Sister’s final tri-state performance down in New Jersey. Taken back by the setting, he admitted he was in disbelief that Opeth was at Radio City Music Hall. Playing with the fans, he asked if anyone in attendance was at their first show in New York City. Could it have been Irving Plaza? No, any true Opeth fan knows their history goes much deeper, and thankfully, one screamed out, “It was in Brooklyn!” to which Åkerfeldt reflected on before moving into older classic “Demon of the Fall.”
Still in awe of the background and turnout, Åkerfeldt continued to interact, mentioning how they were going to play a bunch of songs, mixing some new songs, not so new songs, old stuff, and promising the second half would be dedicated to Deliverance and Damnation. Laying the groundwork for what was to come, Åkerfeldt looked into the crowd stating they would be playing a demanding track from their new record as they moved into “The Wilde Flowers.” A delightful song, Åkerfeldt continued to engage with the audience as he explained, “Mother fucker means ‘really rude’ in Swedish.” After explaining the difference of the phrase, he informed all that he was brought up in the same area in Sweden as the legendary guitarist, Yngwie Malmsteen. Going on to give a shout out to the band Europe, he asked if there were any Europe fans in the house. Receiving a row of cheers, Åkerfeldt admitted, “That song, I never want to hear again.” Continuing to speak about power ballads that made him want to dance when he was younger, after this casual interaction, they moved into Still Life’s “Face of Melinda” before moving into new song “Will O The Wisp.”
Keeping the audience on their feet, Åkerfeldt continued to joke around saying how weird it was for him to mention his own material as classic tunes. As strange as it may be for the creator, for fans, it was not and with that they were offered “The Drapery Falls” followed by “The Devil’s Orchard.” From here, Åkerfeldt asked the audience, “You’re not getting tired are you?” Showing they were still very awake with their voices, Åkerfeldt asked, “Do you remember a record called Watershed?” Provoking more positive reactions, he added, “There is a song on there that I like. We went into an actual church and asked if we can use the organ for it. My ex-keyboardist went in there with an engineer to record a song, and the organ broke. The priest kicked us out.” Åkerfeldt took a brief pause and stated, “Hail Satan.” Inciting some laughter, Åkerfeldt admitted, “I don’t know if it is a controversial thing in the United States, but in Sweden, we don’t give a fuck.” With that, the band closed the first segment of the night with “Hex Omega,” from 2008’s Watershed.
Cutting the lights out, Opeth walked off stage and then, shortly after, the sound escalated as they returned, moving right into the Damnation and Deliverance part of the night. It began with “Windowpane” before Åkerfeldt informed all, “The next one is a song we played on one tour. We don’t know it that well, but we are going to give it a go. We want to do something special for you. To be honest, it is not my favorite song and I don’t know if I know the lyrics. I don’t know the first line, maybe it will come to me. We’ll give it a go anyways. This one is called ‘Death Whispered a Lullaby.'” Doing a fine job with it, The Damnation portion of the set continued as they moved into “In My Time of Need,” followed by “Closure;” a song they have not performed live since 2011.
From this point, the pace picked up with heavier tunes as “Master’s Apprentices” brought in a few grunts. With everyone’s adrenaline pumping, Åkerfeldt expressed how gracious he was to see the turnout. With that, he built up the anticipation, explaining about the one song off Deliverance that the band has never played. Giving a little story about how he grew to like the track, the tease concluded with the reveal being “By the Pain I See in Others.” Another gift, after the song concluded, Åkerfeldt asked how it was and if everyone liked it, to which they replied with ruckus cheers. Mentioning how they reached the end, the entire venue echoed in “boos.” That is because no one wanted the evening to end, but all good things must come to an close. Åkerfeldt then said, “There is one song from Deliverance that we haven’t played, can you guess what song?” Everyone knew it and yelled “Deliverance!” He went on to say, “We will play it and you guys will get out of your fucking seats and bang your head and maybe fist bang.” Something no one had any issue with, Åkerfeldt once again praised the audience and opened up with the beautiful final words, “This is something we are going to remember for the rest of our lives. It is one thing that you just know you will remember.” Something to leave everyone thinking, he introduced the band and went into the incredible finale with “Deliverance.”
Always a special concert experience, Opeth gave all a spectacular performance at Radio City Music Hall, and it was an evening no would ever forget. An incredible night, the sound was crisp with amazing acoustics and the atmosphere was second to none. A venue predominately known for The Rockettes, Opeth joined a list of other Rock-n-Roll bands to grace the landmark’s stage, making history in the process.